2 CharacteristicsSulfur oxides include sulfur dioxide (SO2), sulfur trioxide (SO3), and sulfuric acid (H2SO4).The major sources of sulfur dioxide are shown in Figure 1.Combustion of fossil fuels for generation of electric power is clearly the primary contributor of sulfur dioxide emissions.Industrial processes, such as nonferrous metal smelting, also contribute to sulfur dioxide emissions.
4 Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas, which is moderately soluble in water and aqueous liquids. It is formed primarily during the combustion of sulfur-containing fuel or waste.Once released to the atmosphere, sulfur dioxide reacts slowly to form sulfuric acid (H2SO4).Some of the sulfur dioxide in high temperature processes is oxidized to form sulfur trioxide.
5 Below 500 to 600°F, most of the sulfur trioxide, which is extremely hygroscopic, reacts with water molecules to form sulfuric acid.Sulfuric acid is a strong acid.Sulfuric acid can also be released from plants that manufacture batteries.Sulfuric acid vapor in moderate concentrations (2 to 8 ppm) is very beneficial to electrostatic precipitators because it adsorbs onto particle surfaces and creates a moderate resistivity.High concentrations can be detrimental to precipitator performance.
6 High sulfuric acid levels can also cause significant corrosion problems for precipitators, fabric filters, and other control devices.The temperature of flue gases should be kept well above the dew point for sulfuric acid to prevent condensation on ductwork surfaces and components in the air pollution control system
7 Formation MechanismsSulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid are formed during the combustion of fuel or waste that contains sulfur compounds.Sulfur oxides can also be released from chemical reactors and sulfuric acid plants.The sulfur in the fuel or waste being fired enters the combustion process in a variety of chemical forms including but not limited to inorganic sulfates, organic sulfur compounds, and pyrites (FeS2)
8 A small fraction of the fuel or waste sulfur (usually less than five percent) remains in the bottom ash leaving the combustion processes.The remaining 95+ percent is converted to sulfur dioxide, which remains in the gaseous form throughout the combustion system.A small fraction of the sulfur dioxide generated in the combustion zone is oxidized further to form sulfur trioxide.The reaction mechanisms that could contribute to the formation of this pollutant are not entirely known;
9 however, they probably include the following: Free radical reaction of sulfur dioxide with atomic oxygen in the high temperature zones.Catalytic oxidation of sulfur dioxide on the surfaces of particles entrained in the gas stream.- Thermal reactions between sulfur dioxide and other inorganic gases generated during combustion.
10 The concentration of sulfur trioxide generated during combustion varies widely from unit to unit for reasons that have not been determined entirely;however, sulfur trioxide concentrations are generally related directly to the concentration of sulfur in the fuel and the concentration of oxygen in the combustion zone.The sulfur trioxide concentrations are usually 0.5 to 2 percent of the sulfur dioxide concentration.Sulfur trioxide quickly converts to sulfuric acid upon cooling in the gas stream or atmosphere.
12 Control TechniquesAir pollution control systems for sulfur dioxide removal are large and sophisticated.Sulfur dioxide is controlled by three different techniques: absorption, adsorption, and the use of low-sulfur fuels.The control systems used for sulfur dioxide are usually not designed to remove sulfuric acid.The sulfuric acid concentrations are usually below the levels where it is not economically feasible or environmentally necessary to install control systems.
13 AbsorptionAbsorption processes use the solubility of sulfur dioxide in aqueous solutions to remove it from the gas stream.Once sulfur dioxide has dissolved in solution to form sulfurous acid (H2SO3), it reacts with oxidizers to form inorganic sulfites (SO3) and sulfates (SO4).This process prevents the dissolved sulfur dioxide from diffusing out of solution and being re-emitted.The most common type of sulfur dioxide absorber is the limestone (CaCO3) wet scrubber.
15 Limestone is the alkali most often used to react with the dissolved sulfur dioxide. Limestone slurry is sprayed into the sulfur dioxide-containing gas stream.The chemical reactions in the recirculating limestone slurry and reaction products must be carefully controlled in order to maintain the desired sulfur dioxide removal efficiency and to prevent operating problems.
16 Wet scrubbers used for sulfur dioxide control usually operate at liquid pH levels between 5 to 9 to maintain high efficiency removal.Typical removal efficiencies for sulfur dioxide in wet scrubbers range from 80 to 95%.The wet scrubber (absorber) vessels do not efficiently remove particulate matter smaller than approximately 5 micrometers.In the case with low-efficiency particulate wet scrubbers, the particulate removal efficiency increases rapidly with particle size above 5 micrometers
17 A moderate-to-high efficiency particulate control system is used upstream from the sulfur dioxide absorber to reduce the particulate matter emissions in the less than 3 micrometer size range.These upstream collectors also reduce the quantity of particulate matter that is captured in the absorber.Another type of absorption system is called a spray atomizer dry scrubber (see Figure 2), which belongs to a group of scrubbers called spray-dryer-type dry scrubbers.
18 In this case, an alkaline slurry is sprayed into the hot gas stream at a point upstream from the particulate control device.As the slurry droplets are evaporating, sulfur dioxide absorbs into the droplet and reacts with the dissolved and suspended alkaline material.
19 Large spray dryer chambers are used to ensure that all of the slurry droplets evaporate to dryness prior to going to a high efficiency particulate control system.The term "dry scrubber" refers to the condition of the dried particles approaching the particulate control system.Fabric filters or electrostatic precipitators are often used for high efficiency particulate control.The system shown in Figure 3 has a fabric filter.
21 Spray-dryer-type absorption systems have efficiencies that are similar to those for wet-scrubber-type absorption systems.These generate a waste stream that is dry and, therefore, easier to handle than the sludge generated in a wet scrubber.The equipment used to atomize the alkaline slurry is complicated and can require considerably more maintenance than the wet scrubber systems.Spray-dryer-type absorption systems operate at higher gas temperatures than wet scrubbers do and are less effective for the removal of other pollutants in the gas stream such as condensable particulate matter.
22 The choice between a wet-scrubber absorption system and a spray-dryer absorption system depends primarily on site-specific costs.The options available for environmentally sound disposal of the waste products are also an important consideration in selecting the type of system for a specific application.Both types of systems are capable of providing high efficiency sulfur dioxide removal.
23 Adsorption Sulfur dioxide can be collected by adsorption systems. In this type of control system, a dry alkaline powder is injected into the gas stream.Sulfur dioxide adsorbs to the surface of the alkaline particles and reacts to form compounds that cannot be re-emitted to the gas stream.Hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide) is the most commonly used alkali.
24 However, a variety of alkalis can be used effectively. A flowchart for a dry-injection-type dry scrubber (adsorber) is shown in Figure 4.
25 A dry-injection-type dry scrubber can be used on smaller systems as opposed to using the larger, more complicated spray-dryer-type dry scrubber.However, the dry injection system is slightly less efficient, and requires more alkali per unit of sulfur dioxide (or other acid gas) collected.Accordingly, the waste disposal requirements and costs are higher for adsorption systems than absorption systems.
26 Alternative FuelsOther techniques used for limiting the emissions of sulfur dioxide are simply to switch to fuels that have less sulfur or to convert to synthetic (processed) fuels that have low sulfur levels.The sulfur dioxide emission rate is directly related to the sulfur levels in coal, oil, and synthetic fuels.Not all boilers can use these types of fuels.Each type of boiler has a number of very specific and important fuel characteristic requirements and not all low sulfur fuels meet these fuel-burning characteristics.